The myth: Traffic laws going into effect today in California require that drivers making cellphone calls use hands-free devices. And the fine for several offenses go way up: Get caught illegally using a carpool lane and the ticket will cost you $1,068.50!
The background: A warning about the new laws and fines -- which is getting wide circulation in different versions via e-mail and on websites -- is almost entirely untrue, according to the Department of Motor Vehicles. It's not known how a message so wrongheaded yet exact (fines are listed out to the cents) got started. "It looks like it began with a real estate agent who posted it to his site," said Carol Rohde, a department spokeswoman. "He said he had gotten it from a police officer."
The reality: Hands-free devices will be mandatory for drivers using cellphones, but not until July 1, 2008. First-time carpool lane violations can cost as much as $600, including court fees. Although the mythic e-mail declares, "Speeders can drive only 3 miles above the limit," the law cuts no slack above a posted limit. But one thing the list did get right, according to the DMV: "DUI=Jail."
-- David Colker